Dáil debates

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2007: Second Stage (Resumed)


5:00 pm

Photo of Séamus BrennanSéamus Brennan (Dublin South, Fianna Fail)

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and those Members who took part in the debate which was very positive and informative. I will try to deal with as many of the issues raised as possible.

There was a broad welcome for the thrust of what we are trying to do in the Bill, for which I thank Members. I will be able to go into much more detail on Committee Stage when we can tease out some of the issues raised.

Some speakers talked about child benefit and the €10 payment per month. Child benefit is only one aspect of the budget which this Bill seeks to enact. However, the child dependant allowance aspect is worth highlighting. An extra €60 million was made available for targeted payments to families of 342,000 children. The increased qualified child allowance of €22 is a targeted measure additional to the €140 million child benefit package. That is important because we last touched these allowances in 1994. On this occasion I decided to provide an additional €60 million to assist 342,000 children at the lower income level. In effect, it starts a second-tier payment which the NESC is examining to see how we can bring it to fruition. The increase in child dependant allowance has given us an opportunity not to have a universal payment. The €10 payment is universal, but the 342,000 children at the bottom of the scale receive substantially more than this. I hope that whoever takes this job from me will keep up the determination to assist children on the margins, whatever resources available. We should not spread them too thinly across society. We should target them where they are most needed.

I would like to deal with the issue of child poverty, which was raised by a number of speakers during the debate. The action plan for social inclusion, which covers the next ten years, was launched this afternoon. I am aware some Deputies attended part of the launch of the plan, which pulls together the provisions of the new national development plan and Towards 2016. The new national development plan, under which €50 billion is being allocated for social inclusion, is the first national development plan to provide for a dedicated amount of money in this area and include a social inclusion package. The document that was launched today outlines how the social inclusion measures of Towards 2016 and the national development plan will be implemented. As I said at the launch earlier today, the Government has taken 250,000 people, including 100,000 children, out of poverty over the last decade. The Government has achieved its target, set ten years ago, of reducing the percentage of people in consistent poverty, under the old measure, to 2%. Similar targets for the next ten years were set today. I commend the document that was launched today to the House and to the country. I thank everyone who put so much hard work into it, including the officials in the Office for Social Inclusion and the Department of the Taoiseach.

One or two speakers asked me about the new swipe card payments at post offices. There is no question of people being unable to access their funds as a result of this computer arrangement. Payments to approximately 46,000 recipients of one-parent family payments have been made through the post office network over the past year, having been transferred from the book payment to the swipe card payment. The final group to be transferred, which took place in recent weeks, were 550 widows or widowers with children. There has been some criticism of the provision whereby swipe card payments have to be collected in post offices within 12 days of the due date.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.